Why Companies Should Automate Financial Planning

The larger an organization, the greater the need for better financial planning and analysis (FP&A). You’re dealing with massive amounts of data, and you’re often under intense pressure to provide timely insights. Any delays or mistakes in financial planning could have catastrophic consequences.

Many companies today are struggling to meet these expectations in their financial planning process.

“. . .When you talk to folks that are involved in planning processes, they say ‘It’s just too slow,'” Planful CEO Grant Halloran says. “For a lot of the folks that we work with, an annual planning cycle might take four or five months, and that’s just outrageous in this dynamic business world that we operate in.”

You can mitigate a lot of the challenges in this business process if you automate financial planning tasks that are repetitive. Financial professionals see reduced error, shorter cycle times, and increased productivity by switching to automation, so they can shift their focus to greater priorities.

Maintain Data Quality as the Company Scales

When a company scales, it often has more data to deal with from multiple business divisions. Excel may have been enough in the past, but at this point, it’s hard for the large organization to maintain data quality and accuracy using spreadsheets. In general, spreadsheets are error-prone, and the traditional copy-and-paste approach to data leaves plenty of room for errors.

Automated data collection software eliminates recurring data entry and can reduce the risk of human error. Finance is an area of business where you’re dealing with data on a day-to-day basis, and if you choose to automate financial planning, you’ll simplify much of the work.

“The organizations that wait to automate their financial processes will find it hard to grow and scale their business,” says Licia Salice-Jarisch, SVP of Finance at Binary Fountain. “Finding ways to seamlessly integrate new technology that blends well with your existing business diagnostics and general financial system is key.”

The ideal functions suited for financial planning automation are repetitive and rule-based. You might use automation to automatically extract accounts receivable data and feed it into your forecasting system for the financial consolidation process and reconciliation process, saving hours of finance teams’ time and minimizing errors.

Planful is a powerful solution that can automate financial planning. Access reliable data and avoid versioning issues that come with multiple reports. Our platform gives you the familiarity of Excel but reduces the risk of copy and paste errors.

Bickford’s Group Australia struggled to gather data from various business inputs—the process was heavily manual and resulted in slow turnaround times on the financial forecasting, budgets, and reports that other business divisions needed to operate.

Bickford’s Group Australia used Planful to automate data collection, aggregation, reporting, and distribution between various business divisions. The switch from Excel to Planful made the FP&A process easy and flexible, allowing them to grow their fast-changing, diverse, global business.

Protect Your Finance Team’s Time

Finance teams that rely on spreadsheets spend much of their time each month collecting information from various sources, aggregating data, and manually inputting this information.

You can save your finance team hours spent on this labor-intensive, repetitive work by switching to a solution that supports data integration and automates data collection and aggregation.

According to Gartner, “robotic process automation can save finance departments 25,000 hours of avoidable work annually,” which is equal to the cost of $878,000 for companies with 40 full-time accounting staff. Moreover,  Accenture found that “a successful RPA implementation” can reduce processing costs by 40% to 80% and processing time by up to 80%.

“Robotic process automation can save finance departments 25,000 hours of avoidable work annually.”

Planful works with over 200 pre-built connectors—on-premise and cloud-based ERP systems, data warehouses, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. You don’t have to deal with data silos anymore. View all the business data from a single source of truth and collaborate easily with other teams, saving hours of your team’s time that might have otherwise been spent on manually gathering and inputting information.

Before Planful, furnishings retailer Room & Board pulled data manually from its various enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, which involved heavy copy and paste tasks.

“[With Excel] we were merging, vlookup, cutting and pasting from several different systems to generate our month-end results package,” said Jean Dane, Financial Planning and Reporting Manager at Room & Board. “It was a very inefficient and error-prone process.”

[With Excel] we were merging, vlookup, cutting and pasting from several different systems to generate our month-end results package. It was a very inefficient and error-prone process.

Moving from Excel to Planful gave Room & Board a single version of the truth and greater automation. The result? The retailer improved efficiency and reduced its time to consolidate budgets from one day to 30 minutes.

“We’re now providing this data in a fraction of the time,” said Dane.

Provide Quick Forecasts for Better Decisions

Timeliness is critical in financial forecasts. You need to quickly identify opportunities and risks as the market changes so you can pivot if necessary.

Spreadsheet-based financial planning makes it challenging to create these immediate forecasts because they involve so much manual input.

“Forecasting well and forecasting quickly are often linked. Those who can do it quickly are most likely capitalizing on available technology and are able to produce mini-forecasts on demand,” says  Perry D. Wiggins, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at “. . .the power of analytics, enabled by automation, makes it easy.”

Forecasting well and forecasting quickly are often linked. Those who can do it quickly are most likely capitalizing on available technology and are able to produce mini-forecasts on demand.

With a powerful FP&A platform like Planful supporting your finance processes, you can reduce the time spent on mundane tasks, freeing up time to analyze and be more accurate in your forecasts. Planful automatically provides suggested forecasts based on a variety of drivers so you can assess the impact of key decisions in real-time.

For  SmartyPants Vitamins, creating forecasts through Excel was too time-consuming, considering the company’s speedy growth. “We needed a dynamic solution that could allow us to pull in actuals, and then re-forecast sales and trade spend for the rest of the year really quickly — at a very detailed level,” says SmartyPants Vitamins Senior Finance Manager Cheryl Chow.

SmartyPants Vitamins switched to Planful to automate sales and trade spend reporting. As a result, the company achieved its goal of delivering sales and trade spend forecast templates in 20 days and forecasting the rest of 2020 before the company’s board meeting at the end of Q1. Two months after the board meeting, SmartyPants Vitamins was already fully forecasting its 2021 sales and trade spend budget, along with its preliminary 2021 profit and loss (P&L) in Planful.

Even better? Onboarding with Planful took hardly any time. SmartyPants Vitamins implemented Planful in under three weeks.

Automate Financial Planning So Your Team Can Focus on What Matters

Contrary to popular belief, automation doesn’t eliminate the need for human involvement in financial planning. By freeing up employees’ time—without compromising data accuracy or productivity—automation allows finance teams to shift focus to the big picture: from historical reporting to future-looking analytics for dynamic, continuous planning.

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